Using Tens Frames for One to One Counting


The purpose of this “unit” is to recognise the numbers 0 to 10 as represented using the quinary pattern on the tens frame.  This develops the students’ ability to visualise the quinary patterns and is fundamental to future work with tens frames and visualising number patterns.

Specific Learning Outcomes

Form the sets 0-10 on to an empty tens frame, using a quinary pattern (five in a row).

ten frame.

Pre-requisite knowledge / skills: students need to be secure in one to one counting and the forming of sets to 10.

Description of Mathematics

Number Framework Stage

  • One to one counting

Required Resource Materials


Empty tens frames

Tens frames for the numbers 0-5

  1. Teacher creates interest, for example, by telling a story about teddies on a bus.

  2. Teacher makes a group of five teddies and asks:
    How many teddies have I got?

  3. Teacher and students count the teddies together 1-1.

  4. Teacher demonstrates counting the five teddies on to the empty frame.

  5. Teacher spreads  multiple copies of the tens frames (0-5) in front of the students and asks
    Who can find me a pattern that matches the teddies?
    How could you check that it’s the same?
    Teacher encourages students to share their thinking in an open discussion.  Possible solutions include count it with finger, match them – side by side or on top.  Teacher establishes the link that 5 teddies have been replaced by 5 dots.

  6. Repeat above with 1 – 4 teddies

  7. For zero teddies: Teacher shows the students no teddies and asks them to find the matching tens frame.

  8. Teacher gives each student their own set of tens frames to work with.

  9. Teacher asks the students to put the tens frames 0-5 in order.  Students work on this together, discussing the task as they carry it out


Note: This type of activity needs to be repeated as long as required with different materials and different contexts – until students are confident in this skill.  This may take many weeks.

Additional Activities

The following list of activities could form the basis for further development of one to one counting using tens frames.


  • Repeat above teaching sequence for the numbers 6-10.
  • Match numeral cards to tens frames (0-5) then 6-10.
  • Students order their own set of tens frames (0-5) then 6-10.
  • Students find the tens frame for a given number (0-5) then 6-10.
  • Teacher flashes cards of tens frames to students and they chorus the number represented.
  • Teacher flashes tens frames cards to individual students to identify.

Broadening activities

  • Have students make their own tens frame as a concrete to abstract link and retain them for future work.
  • Ask students to colour in the correct number of dots on a tens frame for a given numeral.
  • Have students make numbers on the tens frame on an OHP and then quickly cover and uncover the frame for others to identify the number they have made.
  • Have students holding the tens frame cards for others to identify the number shown when the pattern is covered and only flashed at them for a short time.  Work in large or small groups.
  • Show students a tens frame with a number on it, cover the pattern and ask students to remember what it looks like and describe it.
  • Have students break down numbers greater than five, (for example, seven is the same as five and two) making the connection between the five fingers on each of their hands and the two lines of five boxes on the tens frame.

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